By Adam Williams, MD
It’s that time of year again. The sun is out. The temperatures are getting warmer. And after being cooped up indoors all winter, we get lured outside for some work in the garden, a trip to the playground, or maybe a walk, hike, run, or bike ride.
Then it hits. It starts maybe with a tickle. Then a sneeze. Then the runny nose starts. The eyes get into the action with itching, redness, tearing, and swelling. Before long, it feels like your nose is running like a faucet, your nose feels completely blocked, you can’t stop sneezing, and it feels like your entire face is itchy. The misery intensifies over days and can persist for months.
You are likely experiencing one of the less pleasant, seemingly inevitable events of the season cycle of central Oregon: allergic reaction to pollen, commonly referred to as seasonal allergies.
Luckily, it does not have to be this way. Learning what you are allergic to, anticipating the start of the season, and proactively managing your allergies can really help reduce the misery.
When tree, grass, and/or weed pollen is inhaled or deposited in the nose, eyes, and lungs, it can result in an allergic reaction that causes symptoms that can range from a mild annoyance to severe debility. The most common symptoms of pollen allergies can include any combination of itchy, watery, red, and or swollen eyes, itchy nose, nasal congestion, frequent sneezing attacks, and runny nose. People with asthma that is triggered by pollen experience wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.
The pollen season typically starts with increasing sunshine and warmer temperatures in March or April with juniper pollen. Late April and early May is the season for other tree pollens. Then grass pollen season runs from late May through July. For a smaller number of allergy sufferers, weed and shrub pollen allergies continue through the end of October.
Here are some ideas to help you minimize your exposure to pollen:
• Stay indoors on dry, windy days
• Avoid outdoor exercise in the morning, when pollen counts are highest
• After outdoor activity, remove clothes and shower to remove the pollen from hair and skin
Of course, sunshine and warmer temperatures make going outside irresistible, and these recommendations can be difficult to follow. And for many allergy sufferers, symptoms can be debilitating even when avoiding prolonged outside activities.
Fortunately for allergy sufferers, there has never been more treatment options, and it has never been easier to get these treatments without a prescription. Some examples of proven treatment options include antihistamines, anti-inflammatory nasal sprays, and allergy eye drops.
So, if you dread the transition from winter to spring and summer because of seasonal allergies, remember that it does not have to be this way. Your local allergists are here to help.
About Dr. Adam N. Williams
Adam Williams M.D. specializes in allergy, asthma and immunology for adults and children. Dr. Williams is board certified in Allergy / Immunology and Internal Medicine. He is a member of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology and the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.